The Name Behind the Guitar: DBZ Guitars and Dean Zelinsky Battle It Out in Court

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Regular visitors of TheToneKing.com know how we have always respected Dean Zelinsky and everything that he’s done. We would even go so far as to call him a friend. Which is why when we first heard that a legal battle had started between Dean and DBZ Guitars, we weren’t sure how to handle it. At first, we were inclined to hold back and let things work themselves out. Then, we realized that it’s the job of TheToneKing.com to report on the inner workings of the music industry. That being said, we took great pains to only report on the facts in this article and stay away from any speculation that may cause Dean any additional problems. When it’s time, we’ll let him tell his side of the story. With that said, Dean, we’re in your corner and wish you the best in these troubling times.   Signed,  The Tone King

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The Name Behind the Guitar: DBZ Guitars and Dean Zelinsky Battle It Out in Court

Marc Johnson for TheToneKing.com

When Dean Zelinsky left Dean to start DBZ guitars, he made it clear that if a guitar was going to have his name on it, he wanted it to be the best damn guitar he could build.  Which is why it’s shocking that as DBZ was starting to hit its stride, it came down the grapevine that a schism had developed between Dean and DBZ guitars. This brought us at TheToneKing.com to thinking: When the names behind the guitars are gone, can it ever be the same?

Dean Zelinsky was a bit of a prodigy. After performing autopsies on guitars to figure out how they worked, he was already building, repairing, and painting guitars for local shops before he graduated from high school. It wasn’t long before Dean started getting the itch to build his own guitars.

Dean Guitars was founded in 1976 in Chicago, Illinois. Although there were plenty of other companies named after luthiers, Dean took it to another level by marketing himself as much as he had marketed his guitars. While guys like Leo Fender kept a low profile behind the scenes, Dean Zelinsky was as much of a celebrity as the guys who played his guitars.

Zelinsky sold off Dean Guitars in 1991 so that he could spend more time with his family. While he came back in 2000 as a consultant, he left the company again in 2008 after a contract dispute. That’s when he started DBZ guitars.

No matter what your name is, every company needs money to get off the ground. Enter Jeff Diamant (Of Diamond Amps) and Terry Martin. DBZ guitars was established in Houston TX, which is the same location of Diamond Amplification. Specializing in both USA custom shop and import guitars, things seemed like they were going pretty well.

Which is why it was surprising to suddenly hear that Dean and DBZ Guitars were parting ways as of January of 2012, less than four years after DBZ’s inception. While there’s plenty of hearsay flying around about why Zelinsky is in a battle with DBZ, there are some things that we know for sure.

On February 9th 2012, DBZ Guitars, LLC filed suit against Dean Zelinsky for a Cause of Action Code 29:1109, which is the code for a breach of fiduciary duties. DBZ has retained attorney Don Fogel who is a partner with Snow, Fogel, Spence LLP, and his practice consists primarily of commercial litigation. Dean has retained attorney Michael John Delaney, who is an associate of Sullins, Johnston, Rohrbach, and Magers, specializing in corporate law. Currently, the state of Texas lists Dean Zelinsky, Jeff Diamant, and Terry Martin all as acting managers of DBZ Gutars LLC.

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The DBZ forums were also abruptly shut down and has not yet been brought back online.

While it’s hard to tell where things will go from here, there is the question that if DBZ can still claim to be guitars from the mind of Dean Zelinsky.

So, what do you think? When you put down your hard earned cash for a guitar with a name, is it important that the person with that name is still behind that guitar? Even after CBS bought Fender from Leo, there were still plenty of players out there slinging Strats. In fact, G&L (the company that Leo Fender owned and operated until the day he died) will probably never be renowned in the same way that Fender is. And Fender’s not the only company where the guy behind the name is gone. There is no more Grover Jackson in our Jacksons and no more Wayne Charvel in our Charvels. Hell, both companies are now owned by Fender!

Some might say that the name doesn’t matter. I don’t know if I agree. Dean made it a point to put himself out there as the guy behind DBZ guitars. For us, it was exciting adding three axes to the TTK arsenal while knowing that Dean was the name behind the initials on the headstock. Dean’s attitude came through his guitars and that’s what made DBZ what it was.

We here at TheToneKing.com certainly wish Dean the best and hope that he makes his way through this and ends up standing on top. He’s always been good to us. He even joined in on a live TheToneKing.com webcast. Needless to say, DBZ will never be the same without him. When the artisan is gone, so is the artistry.

We’ll keep you updated on the situation as we learn more!

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TTK & Dean @ Winter NAMM 2010 :

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About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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  1. fed up says:

    Oh and I forgot one thing: Dean Zelinsky, probably atracted by red hot flashing dollar bills, decided to put “Bill Lawrence USA” pickups (the ones produced by the company owned by Wajczmann) after the legal dispute was settled, disregarding the pickups being made by Bill Lawrence himself with his own company (which had to rename itself then) Wilde Pickups or as it is unoficially known to customers as “Bill and Becky pickups”.
    Zelinsky being lost in a whirlwing of trials with his “pal” Diamant is only a natural conclusion for one who disregarded someone else’s dismay with a smirk and promoted some nincompoop who had sufficient cash to destroy his former commercial partner: now it’s Zelinsky’s turn to swim up shit creek with his eventual loss of DBZ . Time to stop and have hard honest reflexion huh, Dean and Yitzhak ?

  2. fed up says:

    Oh and here’s another man whose name isn’t behind his own company anymore for legal dispute reasons: BILL LAWRENCE aka WILLY STICH (real name) !! His pal Yitzhak Waiczmann (or however his yiddish name is written) from the old days when the brand “Bill Lawrence” sold well and was world famous , endorsing big name artists,after having won a legal dispute years ago managed to obtain the sole right to use the name “Bill Lawrence” even though it was the commercial pseudonym of Willy Stich himself and Wajczmann now claims that “Bill Lawrence USA (modern denomination of the company) is the only company that makes the authentic 500XL played by Dimebag” .
    That is not exactly what I would call friendship nor gratitude. If this Waissmann, Weiczmahn or whatever won his legal dispute, good for him, but it doesn’t make him THE GUY behind the patents (all patented by Bill Lawrence aka Willy Stich) nor the engineer behind the double blade style humbucker pickups, the microcoil, silent Fender humbucker and other pickup innovations.

  3. Ted Cunningham says:

    Just when DBZ was starting to set the guitar world on fire with many great new ideas in guitar design no more Mr.DBZ himself. Two years later and it is almost impossible to sell a DBZ guitar made while Dean was at the helm. Most models now selling for less than 50% of what they were bringing before Dean left. DBZ Diamond has not reintroduced the USA Custom Shop. They have made a number of changes to the old models some nice some not so much and introduced some nice new models. Dean has come out with yet another line re-hashing old ideas with a few new twists. I wonder if the 2008-2012 model DBZ guitars will become known as Dean Zelinsky era DBZ guitars? Personally I wish both could have found a way to work out their differences. Who knows what else they could have done together. I guess well never know.

  4. AcerOX says:

    Unless you buy a USA made DBZ guitars the man behind matters!, but if you buy a generic korean guitar made in some factory that builds other brands for me doesn’t matter the man behind. I have a USA DBZ, a Japanese DBZ made by Fujigen (great as the american one!), and a South korean DBZ and the last one it’s just a generic normal guitar, nothing special, nothing great.

  5. A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I think that you need to publish
    more about this issue, it may not be a taboo
    subject but generally people do not speak about these topics.
    To the next! Kind regards!!

  6. AC says:

    The blondes are welcome at my house ANYTIME. Haters gonna hate.

  7. Michael says:

    This is disturbing. I’m getting ready to purchase this coming month. So the question is to buy DBZ or not to buy DBZ?
    Any opinions or thought would be welcomed.

  8. Gerardo says:

    I own both a Bolero and a Cavallo. They are so beatifull and well made for it´s price…
    I never become tired to watch those beauties with great pleasure, because they are just two great pieces of art, just that.
    Sorry to know about this…

  9. gibstrat says:

    how pitiful that 2 blonde bimbos with fake tits and a load of stupid makeup ruin an interview that i would have enjoyed

  10. Big Lou says:

    This a Reply to Jackson about G&L. I just received a US G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy and the quality and tone of that guitar can only be compared to a Custom Shop Fender. I have a USA Fender Strat and while it is very sweet you get more for your money with G&L. Now I’m talking about the Made in Fullerton, Ca. stuff not the G&L overseas stuff.

  11. jackson says:

    with company’s like fender Jackson charvel many of the same methods of building instruments were kept after Dean left dean guitars the quality really fell of they are only now recovering i think unless the namesake stays in most cases not all the quality drops…. just look at G&l now that leo is gone they really are junk.

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